Sunday, 29 June 2014

Children's book review : The School for Good & Evil - Soman Chainani

Last week, I gave you a little preview of the book, including a rather fab trailer video - now I've finished it so I'm back with my proper review.

Before I turned to the first page, I had to stop and really take in the cover art of The School for Good and Evil because it's so pretty. We see a beautiful, rosy-cheeked, blond-haired, smiling girl in a lilac ballgown and a dark-haired, pasty-faced, slightly scowling girl dressed in black. Ask any child (and most adults) to point out the princess and the villain and they wouldn't hesitate for a second. Then look a bit closer at the picture and you'll notice that, although the black swan on the school crest is on the "villain" side and the white swan on the "beautiful princess" side, the fairytale castle settings in the background seem to be mismatched - the beautiful Sleeping Beauty castle complete with sunshine and rainbow is on the black side and the creepy lightning-struck fortress is on the "princess" side. Hmmm interesting !

The story starts in the peaceful village of Gavaldon, surrounded by woodland, where, every four years, a mysterious event occurs - two children are whisked away in the dead of night, never to return. One - the kind, beautiful, popular child - will enter the School For Good and become a fairytale princess (quite literally - although the children are never seen again, they do mysteriously pop up in the illustrations of fairy tales in the bookseller's window) and the second child - the ugly, mean, less clever or popular one - is whisked off to the partnering School For Evil, destined to become a fairytale villain or henchmen.

Beautiful but unhappy, Sophie has always dreamed of being taken so that she can fulfill her destiny and become a princess in the School for Good. While her father nails shut her window and keeps guard around the perimeter of the forest, she undoes all his handiwork and leaves cookies to encourage the mysterious abductor. Meanwhile, her greasy-haired, gawky, rather smelly friend Agatha, who lives in a cemetery, would make the perfect villain - or so believes Sophie, which is the only reason she deigns to spend any time with her.

Sophie gets her dream - she is kidnapped, along with Agatha, who wants to save her - but it soon turns into a nightmare as the girls are deposited in the wrong schools. Like a fish out of water, Agatha has to fit in with a bunch of beautiful, perfumed, girlie, would-be princesses while Sophie must wear black rags, learn to make herself ugly and eat slops. The girls hatch a plan to re-establish order, get back into their proper schools and ultimately get back home to normalilty, but while Agatha will go to any lengths to help her friend, will Sophie sell her out for a kiss with her prince? And what if, despite appearances, the girls are indeed in the school they really belong in?

It's an enjoyable read, slightly reminiscent of the Harry Potter series but with very strong female heroines. There's magic and romance, princesses and villains, heroics and betrayal, excitement and humour so, even as a grown-up, I was hooked.

I'll be going straight on to read the second novel, The School for Good & Evil : A World Without Princes. I can't wait to see what new adventures await the girls and how they will interact after everything they've gone through so far.

star rating : 4.5/5

RRP : £7.99

  • Paperback: 496 pages
  • Publisher: HarperCollinsChildren'sBooks (6 Jun 2013)
  • Language: Unknown
  • ISBN-10: 0007492936
  • ISBN-13: 978-0007492930
  • Product Dimensions: 19.8 x 13 x 3.6 cm

Disclosure : I received the book in order to write an honest review.

Other reviews you may be interested in :

Children's book review : School For Stars : First Term at L'Etoile - Holly & Kelly Willoughby

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